Saturday, December 15, 2007


I've decided to move to Wordpress like all the cool kids. I've imported everything from here and gotten it all set up over there. I don't love it yet, partly because it's less user-friendly than Blogger, although it has more options. I've changed my layout 20 times already and will probably change it again before too long - I would kill for a layout that has three columns, customizable color, and a customizable heading (because I love that photo at the top of this page), and Wordpress currently offers several combinations of two of those options, but none with all three. So, we'll start with purple and see what happens from there.

So, please change your bookmarks, blogrolls, and Google readers to and weigh in over there on the new look and suggestions to make it better!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Things to Be Happy About, Vol. 7

Happiness, it seems to me, consists of two things: First, in being where you belong, and second - and best - in comfortably going through everyday life; that is, having had a good night's sleep and not being hurt by new shoes.
-- Theodore Fontaine

Let's get right to it, shall we?

1. Make Way for Ducklings, by Robert McCloskey [I bought this for my niece when I was in Boston in March, and we read it two times a day for the four days I visited her afterwards]
2. Gerbera daisies
3. the smell of garlic sauteeing in olive oil [growing up, we'd walk in the house and say, "Smells great, Mom, what's for dinner?" and the only thing in the pan would be olive oil, garlic, and onion]
4. Socca, best eaten walking around the Sunday open-air market in Vieux Nice
5. the way wet leaves stain the sidewalk with their colors in the fall
6. when you and the bank agree on the amount of money in your account [my bank has said I have between $7 and $12 more than my checkbook says for more than a year; if I could ever get a consistent difference for 6 months, I'd just adjust it and move on, but it keeps changing]
7. decorating for Christmas, even if you're the only one who will see it
8. the runt of the litter

After my "alternative work assignment" day today, most of my Christmas shopping is done, I just need one more thing for my dad, and two things for my brother. Karen is coming this weekend with baby Caroline, and we're having a Christmas cookie baking marathon. I've choosen some pretty ambitious recipes, so we'll see how they turn out. I chose Peanut Butter Nanaimo Bars, Double Chocolate Sable Cookies, Kris Kringle Cookies, and Coconut-Peanut Cookies. I may have bitten off more than I can chew, but the Nanaimo Bars are no-bake, and the Coconut-Peanut ones look pretty simple, so I'm hopeful. Karen has chosen traditional sugar cookies, which we'll roll out and use my extensive cookie cutter collection on, as well as Snickerdoodles (which, to my surprise and dismay, do not actually contain Snickers), and a cookie to be named later.

Hopefully the results will be great, and I can take a bunch to work to share and save some for my family on Christmas as well. What are you making this holiday?

(Please, people, I like it when you comment, that's why I keep asking questions at the end of my posts. Don't be shy, I like to know you're reading and what you're thinking - you can be anonymous if you want to. Jane, Lydia, Coll, Becca - thanks for keeping me company!)

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Movie Madness

The movies we love and admire are to some extent a function of who we are when we see them.
-- Mary Schmich

I was off yesterday, and today was kind of a lazy day, so I've been flipping through the channels just to see what's on. I came across three movies that will make me stop and watch them every time.

Yesterday, Mr. Mom was on AMC. I remember watching this movie as a kid and being terrified by the out of control washing machine. I don't think we saw it in the theater though; 1983 was a little early for my family to do that. Probably we rented it when I was about 10 or so. Everyone looked so young - Teri Garr, Michael Keaton, Martin Mull. I don't think you'd cast Keaton and Garr as husband and wife these days; she hasn't aged as well as he has, although he hasn't been in anything I've seen or heard about recently, so maybe he's old and gray by now, I don't know.

The best part of that movie is his descent into bearded, Young-and-the-Restless-watching, grilled-cheese-ironing madness. The day all the repair people come at once and the washing machine explodes (probably because he mixed the powdered detergent with the liquid fabric softener in order to "save a step"), and the vacuum cleaner ("Jaws") runs amok and goes after the "Woobie", and the middle kid catches the stove on fire? Pure comedy gold. I have to say, though, that the sexist premise doesn't really hold up today, but I dig Teri Garr's 80s-working-woman outfits: jackets with big shoulder pads and those blouses that tie at the neck. Nice.

Today, I came across Stepmom, just as it was starting, and I watched the whole thing. I adore Susan Sarandon, and Julia Roberts was great in this, a break from the usual comedy she does. I bawl like a baby at two points, without fail: first, when Jackie and Isabel meet in the restaurant and talk about the kids' lives without Jackie. Jackie says, "I have their past, and you can have their future," and it's so painful, watching a mother who knows she's never going to get to see her kids grow up figuratively hand them over to the woman who's going to be responsible for raising them in her stead.

The second is Christmas morning when Jackie has the kids come up to her room individually to give them each the gift she's made for them. The little boy, Benjamin, is played by Liam Aiken, and he's fantastic in this role. Cute, but not precious. His gift is a magician's cape that Jackie sewed for him, and it's got pictures of the two of them on it. He points to one of them in the hospital just after he was born, and asks, "Did you know I was good looking right away?" So sweet. But the part that really gets me comes after he asks Jackie if she's dying, and she says yes, and they talk about what it will be like after she's gone, how Ben can always talk to her because she'll be in his heart. He's quiet for a moment, and then he says, "Nobody loves you like I do." There aren't enough tissues in the house to contain me at that point. Sad city.

Later today, I was having a snack and flipping channels again, and Sixteen Candles was on. John Hughes, in the 80s, was it for teen movies. Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, and Weird Science. Any of those would freeze my remote in a heartbeat, especially Weird Science. Anthony Michael Hall can thank John Hughes for everything he has. (Huh. IMDb says John Hughes also wrote Ferris Bueller's Day Off. I didn't remember that, but now that I see it, it makes perfect sense. He also wrote Mr. Mom.)

All of these movies are ones I must have come to by way of slumber party movie marathons (although I remember seeing Ferris Bueller at the drive-in with my uncle and my brother one summer in Buffalo), because they all came out before I was 10, which I find hard to believe, but IMDb assures me that it's true. They're so iconic, and so much a part of my history as a teen ("We are what you see us as," from The Breakfast Club, was popular as a yearbook quote when I was in high school in the early to mid-90s) that I feel like I must have always known about them, but that can't be true.

Anyway, I love Sixteen Candles. Despite the terrible fashion, I think it really holds up as a portrait of high school angst, as do John Hughes' other films (minus the "perfect woman" Gary and Wyatt cook up in Weird Science). I loved Dong, I loved Joan Cusack as the girl with the back brace and head gear, and most of all, I loved Jake Ryan. Didn't every girl dream that the handsomest guy in school would grow tired of the perky, perfect blond and suddenly realize she exists and give her the perfect kiss? My favorite line in the movie comes from Sam's (Molly Ringwald) dad. She's sad about Jake - he doesn't know she exists, and it hurts, she says. "That's why they call it a crush," her dad tells her. "If it were easy, they'd call it something else." So true.

There are other movies, too, that will make me stop what I'm doing and watch: Legends of the Fall (and I make no bones about the fact that this is my all-time favorite movie; I own it, I can recite every line, I've seen it a billion times, and I sob during every viewing), St. Elmo's Fire, Field of Dreams, Stand By Me (the theme music - not Ben E. King's "Stand By Me," but the melody that plays at the end when Richard Dreyfuss reads the news about Chris - haunts me, as does River Phoenix's acting), The Shawshank Redemption (I can hear Morgan Freeman's Red narrating in my head, even now), Eight Men Out (I'm seeing a trend towards John Cusack; this is probably my favorite role of his).

So what does it for you? Tell me, if you will, what movies make you put down the remote, stop what you're doing, and settle in?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Things to Be Happy About, Vol. 6

There is no duty we so underrate as the duty of being happy. By being happy, we sow anonymous benefits upon the world.
-- Robert Louis Stevenson

So let's delve into my bag of tricks (or Happy Notebook, as it were) and see what we come up with this week, shall we?

1. tree branches covered with ice
2. finally getting the courage to start a conversation with that cute Spanish guy you followed halfway across Salamanca
3. a down-to-the-wire sporting event [not unlike Monday's Patriots-Ravens game, even if it did turn out the wrong way]
4. winning a game of Scrabble against your grandma for the first time [my grandma is a serious Scrabble player, and she does not go in for any of that let-them-win-because-they're-kids stuff, so the first time I won, it was a big deal]
5. singing a duet in a big concert with your best friend
6. Polaroid cameras
7. changing leaves against a bright blue sky
8. auctions [I don't know about where you live, but in Central PA where my parents live, auctions are prime people-watching venues, and you've never seen people spend so much money on a basket in your life]
9. Grand Central Station

What else is new? Well, my boss just announced today that I and each of my co-workers get a day off every week for the rest of the year, including this week, so that's pretty cool. We're calling it "a day on which you report to work elsewhere, and your assignments are at your discretion" because he can't really give us the day off, but he still wants to reward us for our kick-ass productivity. It's code. Shhh. Of course, I'm the juniorest of all my co-workers, so I got last dibs on the days I wanted, and it's kind of annoying to have off on a Tuesday or a Thursday because you can't make a long weekend out of it, but I'll take it.

Sunday, I've been invited to my boss's house for brunch, and according to his latest email, "this would be the perfect time to have our annual round-robin gift exchange." Good holy god, I hate those things. If this is one of those White Elephant things where you pick a gift and open it, then the next person can either pick an unwrapped gift or steal the gift you already opened, I might cry. No matter what I buy, I always feel I've contributed the inferior gift, and I hate the "stealing" part of the whole thing; it makes me uncomfortable. I'd so much rather pull a name from a hat and just buy for that person. So, the limit is $20, and there are 6 of us participating - 4 women (including myself), ranging in age from 26 to 50, and two men, one who's 25 and the other (my boss) who's in his late 50s. What the hell do I buy? I'm thinking wine glasses from Pier One. Any other ideas?

Speaking of Christmas, I still have not started shopping, so that's kind of stressing me out. I have multiple items in my Amazon shopping cart, I just haven't pulled the trigger and purchased them yet because some people (who probably don't even read this) haven't bothered to send me Christmas lists, so I can't be sure if I've chosen wisely or not. In years past, I've been finished by now and on to wrapping them, but since I have to work for a living these days, the time seems to have evaporated much more quickly than I anticipated. Anyone else not finished or not started yet? Make me feel better by commenting, please.

I went down to Richmond this weekend to see my niece and nephew (and my brother and sister-in-law, but who am I kidding? Bring on the babies). I'll tell you what, there's nothing like spending time with people under 5 to make you forget your troubles, that's for sure. I laughed more on Saturday with the two of them than I probably have in the past month at home. I adore them beyond all reason, and just as soon as I come up with fake names for them, you can be sure I'll bore you to tears with tales of thier abundant cuteness.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

I Could Be Friends With These People

There is nothing in which people more betray their character than in what they laugh at.
-- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

My grandmother sent me this video this afternoon. The title is Best First Dance at a Wedding Ever, and I have to agree. Apparently this is the hot video at the moment, because I that hear the couple is going to be on Ellen. Given her penchant for dancing, that doesn't surprise me at all.

Watching this video makes me hopfeul for this couple's marriage, actually - they seem really at ease with each other and obviously have a great sense of humor about themselves (how many brides have you known who would freak out at the idea of such foolishness on "the most important day" of their lives?). I hope it brightens your day just a little bit!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Because I Love You

We confess our bad qualities to others out of fear of appearing naive or ridiculous by not being aware of them.
-- from Thoughts in a Dry Season, by Gerald Brenan

One of my favorite blogs is Above the Law, and I read it faithfully. (You may remember an earlier post on Big Law bonuses that was sparked by the bonus coverage on ATL.) Every once in a while, Lat posts something that makes me laugh out loud. Today was one of those times. He posted the following, prefaced with the information that it is a real cover letter received in response to paralegal job posting at a legal staffing agency. It seems almost too "good" to be true, but it had me dying laughing in my office today, and because I love you all, I thought I'd share it with you:

Hello there,

I am not a paralegal. But, I type 85 WPM and used to be executive assistant and have multiple skillsets, easy to train, that honestly set me $1000 over the salary of a degreed political science bachelors degreed person. Sadly, she was aggressive and began reading Hitler's methods and worked her way to stop my success with her deception.

The compliance lawyer finally figured out what she was doing and wound up getting rid of her. She now works in buying and selling electrical components somewhere. So, I have no way to measure her value or mine within this paralegal field. I'll let you be the judge.

I envy her in some ways, as she knows how to get where she wants to go. I just like to take my time and be a team player, not a bulldozer, which is a rare thing from what a Criminal Justice professor advised me, when I thought of obtaining a paralegal bachelors degree. I am aggressive, just can't bulldoze people over. He was unsure if I'd make it in that field because of that personality feature I have.

I'd rather love people and nurture them to their success. I don't have that other bulldozing personality trait in me, to stop other's success. I can bulldoze aggressively to help people succeed. So, honestly, I do not know how you would value me in that way. I thought that was important to mention as I don't know precisely how you'd need someone to be.

I've had some compliance experience. The compliance experience was basically data entry making edits to documents and having strikethroughs show up on the document of removed verbage. Honestly, I thought it was pretty basic to be a paralegal, as they had told me that was paralegal work. Surely, there has to be more to it.

If you require research, I can do some of that. But, reading volumes of legal documents that a law student would be required to absorb and interpret, to me, would require more of a lawyer than someone with my experience. But, I am willing to help you, if that is what you need.

If you are in a bind, let me jump in and help you out. I can jump over there to help you out if you are in a bind, rather quickly, while you are looking for someone else that may be more qualified. Or, I may be precisely what you need if you show me what to do. Again, I don't know what you would need. So, you'd have to let me know what you would need help with.

The ad you wrote seemed that you were in urgent need of help, right now. So, I thought that my offer would help you. I hate sitting home studying all day and submitting the neverending resume search for employment anyways. I have a degree. It's not a bachelor's yet, I'm working on that piece. I have an associates and hope to start my own business someday on the side of real estate appraisal. But, this economy is dicey for anyone to train in the field. So, I'm sitting here doing nothing of value. I can't stand not making a difference and working.

So, let me know your thoughts. If you need me, let me know. I'll come right down and begin now. I'd love to be of assistance. My hours of availability are 9:00am - 5:00pm, Monday through Friday.


You're welcome.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Things to Be Happy About, Vol. 5

You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.
-- Albert Camus

This is going to be brief. I'm having a very difficult time personally right now, and just when things seemed to be looking up a little, I got blindsided by something else. I do think it's important to still try to focus on the little things and remember that things were not, and won't always be, as bad as I feel like they are right now.

I would like to say, also, a very heartfelt thanks to my "invisible" friends, who have surprised me with their kindness, support, and generosity over the past several days. I'm not surprised that they are kind, supportive, and generous - I've seen them show it over and over again - but I am surprised that that their kindness, support, and generosity were so freely extended to me. (You may have heard that I have a hard time making friends and tend to be insecure.) I really can't tell all of you what it means to me, but I thank you.

So, here's this week's list:

1. when you all of a sudden have a funny thought and laugh out loud
2. old couples who are still obviously in love [not unlike this couple, on the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, France]
3. having friends all over the world
4. sitting next to someone good on a plane
5. big raindrops
6. babies fresh from the bath
7. sneaking out without getting caught [not that I ever did this]
8. catching snowflakes on your tongue
9. the mountains of Virginia
10. a really comfortable bed